ortland to Portland: while it may be poetic to bracket the country with homonymous towns, what happens between them will surely be filled with drama. That’s my assessment after participating in 4 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Rallies since 2012 (it’s biannual): those 3600 miles of back roads are the stage on which an endless variety of experience will play out over the next 18 days, the failures, the falls, the fatigue, and the fires. And the sheer joy of riding a 90+ year old motorcycle all day, every day, for more than 2 weeks.
Our path is laid out on roll charts, with typically 15 or 20 pages of rally-style instructions, for a daily journey of between 230 to 350 miles. There’s no was to preview the day’s route, but we know our target town and hotel, so the roll chart is our trail of breadcrumbs, and woe betide mis-steps or mis-readings in some backwoods county of Pennsylvania or Wyoming, where opportunities to get lost are endless, and signage confusing or nonexistent. It’s a rolling circus barreling through 16 mid-sized towns with sufficient bed space for 3-400 dedicants to the cult of the Old Motorcycle. 100 of whom will be tired, or despairing, or jubilant, or angry, or injured, or simply bemused at the kaleidoscopic variety of experience from a full day of riding a vintage bike.
We’ve already seen the crowd of machinery for this year’s rally, which is typically Harley-heavy, but has a in interesting mix of Indians, Thors, Excelsiors, Hendersons, Triumphs, Nortons, an Ariel, and the pair of Brough Superiors we’re riding with rally partners Revival Cycles and Sinless Cycles, whose owner Bryan Bossier owns both our bikes. Our team is riding a 1925 Brough Superior SS80, and a 1926 SS100, and Revival’s Chris Davis will massage them nightly, just as he did our 1933 Brough Superior 11.50 in the 2014 Cannonball. Revival’s Alan Stulberg will no doubt push the performance envelope on the SS80, in his usual hurryup style, while Suzie Heartbreak and myself will try to keep the SS100 under its 100+mph top speed. We and 98 other riders will chunter, thump, and burble away from our hotel this morning amid smoke and cheers, with the long miles stretching ahead, our future visible at least regarding the path, but the experiences to come remain a mighty question mark. Fingers crossed!